10 Downing Street - Lobby Briefing 29th November
LOBBY BRIEFING: 4PM THURSDAY 29 NOVEMBER 2001
Asked about the Anglo-French Summit this afternoon, the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (PMOS) said the degree of EU unanimity since September 11 had been remarkable and no doubt that would be reflected in the meeting between the Prime Minister, President Chirac and Prime Minister Jospin throughout the afternoon. Issues expected to be discussed included Afghanistan and other related issues, such as common European moves against terrorism, European arrest warrants and joint investigative teams. They would also look at the Middle East peace process and support American moves to try to kick start the process and move it forward. They would also discuss European issues in the run up to the Laeken Summit, such as the future of Europe debate and the Barcelona agenda, as well as wider issues such as relations between the EU and Russia.
Asked whether the Prime Minister would press President Chirac and Prime Minister Jospin on the liberalisation agenda, the PMOS said that as the Prime Minister had said, we believed firmly in the need to keep the momentum going for reform. However, that was not necessarily a message that needed to be directed at any one country in particular. Questioned further, the PMOS said that everyone was aware of our position. The Barcelona Summit next year would provide an opportunity to provide a gear change in attitudes to liberalisation on the economic front.
Asked if there was any tension between the UK and France on possible action against Iraq, the PMOS said he did not see any tension in our position. We had made it clear that our focus was currently on Afghanistan. As he understood it, that was the French position as well. Any further moves down the road would have to be based on evidence, as it had been in relation to Afghanistan.
Asked if we would be rolling over the sanctions tomorrow, the PMOS said that there was now unanimity among members of the UN, including Russia, as to what should happen next. It had been agreed that the sanctions would roll over for a further six months.
Asked whether any troops deployments might be announced shortly given reports that the Northern Alliance had now agreed to an international presence, the PMOS said he wasn't aware of any imminent announcement. The reports being referred to appeared to be a reflection of the atmosphere at the Bonn Summit which was better than anyone could have anticipated. We appeared to be seeing the beginning of a process to agree an interim administration. However, that needed to go at its own pace.